Free Will vs. Omniscience
How Is Free Will Compatible with Omniscience?
Many Christians have posed the question, “If God is omniscience, how then can we have free-will?” To assert that God is not omniscient is contrary to traditional Christian views of free-will under compatibilism. Compatibilism can be defined as the belief that free-will and determinism are compatible ideas. (Cowburn, 144) Here we must define what it is that we are discussing.
To say that one has free will must be that a person has in his or her power at any given moment the right to do as he or she wills. (Erasmus, 12) While it may be uncomplicated in thought, it is misleading in regards to the concept of free will as defined by Christian doctrine. The free will to which we must adhere to (according to Christian doctrine) is this; Free will is free in and of itself. However, our choices are not determined by the will itself but rather by the mind. This free will is guided by our knowledge and understanding as well as driven by our motives. The great American theologian Jonathan Edwards is credited with the most refining ideas on free will. He wrote explicitly about motive-based free-will. Edwards first defines the will as “the mind choosing”. (Edwards, 34) Our choices are determined by what we think is most desirable at any given moment.
We then come to issues of the illusion of free will that we have been trying to compare with omniscience; and that nature is undeniably open for God to see (omniscience). Therefore, a God existing temporally would know the nature of the being and the will of the being. So if a being is slave to its nature, the will of the being is not free but subject to the omniscience of its God. But that is not saying that we are not free to do otherwise, because every intention of the heart is known to God. He knows our every act of will and what every act of will will always be. Therefore, we find that both the will of man is free to do as he may, but the omniscience of God is not challenged. However, if there is no free will in and of itself, then it does not harm Gods omniscience in any shape or form. So if we then find ourselves more in a position in line with Arminianism and unwilling to totally reject free will, we then must put forward an argument that makes both the omniscience of God and the supposed free will of man compatible, or we must accept that God is not omniscient. Once established that free will must exist we arrive at the following argument.
1) God knows before we are born everything we will do.
2) If God knows before we are born everything we will do then it is never in our power to do otherwise.
3) If it is never in our power to do otherwise, then there is no human freedom.
4) There is no human freedom.
We push forward the notion that God exist eternally in such a way as He has no beginning or end, and exists outside of time and therefore is not subject to universal laws. God is then viewed as infinite and endless and entirely present to Himself. (Poe, 77) As such, God is “present” at all times and subject to none. This removes the thought of fore knowledge. Because God is not established at any one point of time, He can never foreknow anything, for that implies God is inside of time. According to both philosophers Boethius and Aquinas, “nothing happens in time that God is not aware of and as such he sees everything at all times in a glance.” (McInerny, 100) It is compared to how we see the present in a glance as we know the events that are unfolding before us; so does God look on all events as they happen and as they have happened. God does not have foreknowledge because He is not in position to do so, yet he knows past present and future in its entirety. Edwards states “If there be any such thing as foreknowledge of the volitions of free agents, that foreknowledge, by the supposition, is a thing which already has, and long ago had, existence; and so, now…